Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Long Time No Write

Almost a week ago, one person I know in real offline life asked me why I have not been writing. I told her it was because I was taking a break from writing about running, and that I had actually been writing a lot about skiing. Or at least I have been hyper-writing, which takes much more time and effort. My writing is mostly online in various forms: blogs, web sites, email, forums. Writing is no longer something that involves just a writing utensil and paper. Hyper-writing involves a third dimension beyond surface text. There are web links and photos and videos and scripts and widgets to embed. Writing involves response to web articles and to other people, known mostly by just a screen name and sometimes an avatar.

Writing well is hard work. Most of the time, I don't just bang out these things half-thinkingly. I learned way back in high school that whatever a person writes represents them. I don't take that concept lightly; too many people do. The more I write, the older I get, the more I realize how much hard work good writing is, and the more I respect good writers. And in this busy life, there is a budget of work and time. A person can only put out some given amount of hard work every day. So there is another reason why I have not written here. When I work with writing (and with all the other glop that makes up my life) elsewhere, sometimes writing here gets squeezed out of the available budget.

Another thing that has to fit into the budget is the topic written about here: Running Itself. Like good writing, good running takes hard work. I found a need to run less after November 2007's New York City Marathon. I ran an average of about once per week after that event. In the seven weeks that remained in 2007 after the NYC Marathon, I had a grand total of eight running workouts. As a substitute, I did about a dozen strength workouts, specifically targeted towards skiing (from SKI magazine's November issue), and I had 13 days of skiing in December.

As my older posts here indicate, the reason I backed off running is because I found myself suffering from Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. This is ironic and almost embarrassing, since all this barefoot running is supposed to protect runners from suffering such injury.

A brief history of the evolution of the injuries: I worked hard on my running after the previous skiing season ended, from April 15 - June 2007. I quickly increased my distance running, as I was able to do in previous years based on my bank of cardiovascular attributes gained from 34 years of running, but neglected training for speed.

Let me illustrate how quickly I elevated weekly mileage: From Jan 1 - April 15, ski season, I averaged 20 miles per week, with a high of 40. From April 16 - June 17, I averaged 38 per week with a high of 55. See the graph image below from my Excel Training Log. The dip in mileage at the week ending June 24 indicates the week right after the injury race, President's Cup, on June 18.
Through sheer force of experience, I amped up my training and was running previously unimagined distances barefoot (59% of my 120 June miles were barefoot). And I got cocky: I ran the first 9 miles of the Towpath Training Run wearing just socks with duct tape, which was no problem (pics). I tried the same thing at the President's Cup 5K, a road race. But I now realize why I injured my tendons there. It was because it was my first time running relatively fast on the road. I had only one other race so far that year, a cross-country race. I had been training slow distance - especially when barefoot and it was mostly on grass. My body was just not ready for fast running on the road. It really wasn't the fact that I was barefoot that caused the injury at President's Cup. It was the faster pace, pure and simple. I had done half of the 2006 Geralda Farms 10K race on pavement barefoot before, but slowed down because my big toes wore down and got bloodied and painful. The fact that I wore duct taped socks at the President's Cup race probably increased my probability of injury, because I could run even faster barefoot with that protection. I may have been able to handle that when I was 28 or even 38. But I guess at 48 my old tendons have lost some of that life-giving capillary circulation and decided to call it quits. Additionally, in retrospect, I felt some pain coming on in my Achilles area before the President's Cup race last June, but I did as most over-experienced runners do, ignoring it and continuing to train in hopes it would get better by itself. That is something I probably could have gotten away with in previous decades too.

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